BEIJING (Reuters) - China moved toward further opening up the country’s lower altitude airspace for civilian use, a step that could spur growth in its fledgling general aviation industry by making it easier for smaller aircraft like private jets and helicopters to fly.
The State Council, the country’s cabinet, announced the move on Tuesday in a statement posted on the Chinese central government’s website. The statement did not give details. The move was announced as a guideline and will become law once the country’s aviation regulator finalizes detailed rules.
The move could boost business opportunities for western firms such as Textron Inc’s Cessna Aircraft Company, Bombardier and Gulfstream which have been investing in either manufacturing or maintenance facilities in the country, industry observers said.
Liberalizing the airspace will especially benefit China’s tourism, emergency medical services and pilot training sectors, which operate light aircraft and helicopters, they said.
Beijing simplified flight approval procedures for private aircraft in November 2013, a move which was seen as the first step for the gradual opening up of its lower altitude airspace which is now controlled by the military.
The country will have over 500 airports for small aircraft only, and more than 5,000 private jets, turboprops and helicopters by 2020, the cabinet said.
Total annual flying time of all small planes is estimated to rise to 2 million hours in 2020 from 732,000 hours last year, it added.
Reporting by Fang Yan and Matthew Miller; Additional reporting by Siva Govindasamy in SINGAPORE; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman